Bacardi scraps global CMO role

Bacardi Limited, one of the largest privately held spirits company in the world, has made a major rejig to its marketing team.

Six months into his role, Dima Ivanov, global CMO of Bacardi Limited, will exit the company as it looks to establish Centres of Excellence (CoEs) in Europe and North America. Each of these markets will be headed by a chief marketing officer who will report to Bacardi Limited CEO Mike Dolan on global brand decisions along with their regional presidents on regional issues.

“It has become increasingly clear that we have to change in order to win. And believe me we are in this to win. We have world-class brands and agency partners. Now it’s about changing how we organise to give our people, our partners and our brands a real shot at success,” Dolan said.

He added the company’s goal was now to be the company that attracted and retained the best of the industry. He said the “ultimate test of that is selling more cases, growing share and driving the bottom line” so the brand can re-invest more in its iconic brands and “industry leading innovation”.

Following the shuffle, heading up North America is Mauricio Vergara who came on board in 2013 and handled Bacardi and Grey Goose. Meanwhile, Shane Hoyne is now CMO of Europe. He was last the global lead for Martini, Dewar’s, William Lawson’s and Bombay. The CoEs will also be charged to create assets, and partner with the company’s external agencies, hubs and markets to ensure those assets are executed in locally relevant ways.

Is a global CMO role redundant?

According to Darren Woolley, founder and global CEO of TrinityP3, the role of the global CMO is much like that of a global CCO where both are roles that are largely ceremonial.

(Read also: Aiming for a regional role? Know what you are getting into)

“They become the champion of the function they represent, but practically have little responsibility or authority as the business is a market by market and region by region proposition,” he said.

He added that while there was a need to have a consistency of brand, in actual fact, the expression of the marketing strategy and the brand strategy will vary depending on the market maturity, culture and competitive set.

Recounting a similar incident in China, but declining to name the brand, he said that about 18 months ago a global CMO who got involved in a regional pitch in China was overriding the local team’s choice of agency. This led to the local team deferring to the “superior” position of the global CMO and then within 12 months of the new agency being appointed, it had effectively changed agencies to the one it had wanted in the first place.

“The fact is that marketing is a central function of business and at a global level this is more about co-ordination and management than it is delivery at market level. As marketing is dependent on delivering the brand and customer experience it is more effective at a regional, but more specifically at a market level,” he said.

Added Paul Davies, managing partner for APAC at Roth Observatory International: “To give a true perspective of whether this is better than a global CMO depends upon the challenges and issues facing the organisation – both externally and (maybe even more importantly) internally.

“So only Mr Dolan can provide this perspective, but one consequence of his decision may be that he becomes the de facto CMO on critical decisions which raises other concerns or considerations.

“On a global CMO versus regional CMOs there is no definitive answer. The global CMO role is much maligned as it struggles to show value across the whole organisation – and how can it when a key part of the role is to make the hard choices. But it could work for some if they have some way of ensuring alignment, a strong culture of co-operation and the individuals act for the greater good of the company not just their own egos or targets.”

So what else might it mean for Bacardi? Certainly for the brands more clarity and direction, which must be positive and allow them to be nearer to the ground where the action is, and most importantly, understanding what the ground needs, opines Davies.

“So I would expect this to strengthen Bacardi’s brands over time as it will provide focus.”

Changes on the agency side

The changes come shortly after Bacardi Limited consolidated its creative and media activity with BBDO and OMD. In addition, the company also announced it was in the process of consolidating its below-the-line spend.

“With these changes, we will be able to adapt our focus to our brands, not categories, and position ourselves to fully leverage the benefits of having world-class global agency and media partners,” Dolan explained.

Also, to manage relationships with the recently consolidated agency team, Zara Mirza, global communications director for Bacardi rum, was named the head of creative excellence.

She will be responsible for the central creation and delivery of integrated communications ideas across the company’s core brands. She will also oversee the communication adaption in all key markets – rooting it in popular culture and keeping it highly relevant to Bacardi’s audiences in specific markets. She will report directly to Dolan.

She has more than 15 years of experience with global brands across premium spirits, luxury goods and fast-moving consumer goods categories. She has served as a partner and strategic business lead at Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) working on accounts such as Google, The Guardian, Johnnie Walker, ITV and Lynx.

Currently, the company’s ready-to-drink and Tequila brands continue being led from Shanghai and Mexico respectively and brand leaders will be named shortly. The company also said it would continue to review plans with teams and finalise details in the coming weeks.

According to a release by the company, with these newly established plans, Bacardi hopes to “take a major step forward in bringing the company’s brand strategies closer to its markets” and making them more relevant to its consumers.